Posted on June 20, 2017 by Tia Lalani

It is with profound grief and sorrow that the Augustana community announces the sudden passing of Dr. Phillip Merklinger.

Provided by Alexander Carpenter


It is with profound grief and sorrow that the Augustana community announces the sudden passing of Dr. Phillip Merklinger. Phil had been a professor in the Philosophy and Religion program at Augustana for more than three decades, where he was beloved by faculty, staff and students alike. A scholar with wide-ranging interests and expertise—from ancient philosophy to Hegel to Existentialism—Phil was also a gifted and inspiring teacher, revered not only for his intellect and his ability to make philosophy accessible and understandable to students, but also for his kindness and generosity of spirit in and out of the classroom. In the words of one of his former students, Phil was simply “the best prof at Augustana…because he made students feel worthy.”

We at Augustana will remember Phil fondly for his deep commitment to teaching, his passionate support of student groups and advocacy on behalf of student issues, and for the important service to university governance he provided over many years. We will remember Phil for his love of rock ‘n roll–especially the Stones–and as a founding member of the Augustana faculty band the SubDudes. We will remember his wit, his wisdom and the importance of his voice on this campus. We will remember Phil as an irreplaceable colleague and dear friend.

To convey your condolences and share your memories of Phil, please sign the book of condolences in the Faith and Life Lounge; alternatively, you can comment here and we will pass on your words to Phil’s family.

The funeral service for Phil Merklinger will take place at 1 pm in the Augustana Chapel on Tuesday, June 27 with Rev Craig Wentland officiating. The family has asked that people attending the funeral honour Phil’s memory by dressing comfortably—ideally in a favourite band tee-shirt and jeans.


Posted in Augustana Campus, Featured. | Permalink

49 responses to Augustana mourns beloved professor

  • Bill Hackborn said:
    Jun 28, 2017 at 5:09 PM

    Phil, you were one of the few who really got what life was about before you moved on. You leave behind an enduring legacy in the wisdom and love you conveyed to your students, the colleagues like me whose lives you touched, and the two amazing children, Tom and Emily, you brought to life and raised with Margaret. Travel in peace, dear friend. I will miss you for the rest of my days here.

  • neil james lassesen said:
    Jun 28, 2017 at 12:23 AM

    A giant of a man.
    Just one of his footprints
    is an ancient coulee
    carved by water, by wind,
    by snow, by ice and
    by gravity;
    leaving a cut across
    the prairie where,
    if you shout your name,
    you hear a different one
    calling back.

  • Vanessa Izaguirre said:
    Jun 27, 2017 at 7:47 AM

    I am deeply sad and moved for Phil’s passing. He was such a wonderful person, always caring for others and his love for Emily and his family was noticiable even if you did not know him very well.
    I will always remember the Thanksgiving 2015 that we spent together in Kingston, it was a very nice way to spend a festivity away from home. Phil, Margaret and Emily have always make me feel love and appreciated, and they have make my adaptation process way easier. Thanks Phil for being such a nice person, rest in peace.

    Emily, Margaret and tom, my deepest condolences and I am here to support you any time.

  • Alan ramsay said:
    Jun 23, 2017 at 1:34 PM

    Growing up on Young St. In Waterloo, Phil and his family were neighbour’s of ours. In the little gang of kids on the street, Phil was just another kid, unremarkable, and as an athlete Phil was even more unremarkable.We played a lot in Waterloo Park. I remember even as a kid, the slight smile that would cross his face when he said something that made you consider something ‘outside the box’.
    As unremarkable as he may have seemed in his earliest years, Phil proved himself to be a very remarkable man.To have such a positive influence on so many is truly remarkable, and a wonderful achievement. That little Young St. gang is very proud of you Phil,and remembers you well.

  • Kieran and Margaret Bonner said:
    Jun 23, 2017 at 12:40 PM

    Dear Margaret, Thomas, Emily and all friends of Phil,
    Like others, we are still in great shock about this loss. We were out in Camrose last October for the Ronning Lectures. After the Library presentation, Phil, Roger Milbrandt and Carmen, Tara Milbrandt, Pam Moskie, Margaret OSB, etc., and I went to the Alice Hotel for old and present times sake. Occasions of return are also occasions of reflection and I remember Philip reflecting on how good life was and is at Augustana. We caught up a little on what our respective kids were doing and in general agreed that life had treated us well.
    In my Augustana days, I remember working with Phil as a co-teacher on a Western Civ course, we worked together as co-editors of Dianoia, on various other spontaneous faculty initiatives and, most of all, how he and Margaret were a strong presence in our social lives at Camrose. Margaret OSB also remembers with great fondness auditing Phil’s existentialism course. All of these memories came rushing back when we heard the shocking news. We both are now so glad that the Chester Ronning Centre provided us with an opportunity to revisit a place that was so influential in shaping me as an academic, and especially the opportunity to touch base with Philip as old friends would. It is a memory we will cherish, even while we still shake our heads at the shock of the news. On Tuesday we will wear our favourite tee shirts and jeans and listen to some Rolling Stones.
    Take care Margaret. Know that despite the geographical distance, our thoughts and prayers are close to you.
    Kieran and Margaret

  • Jennifer Lyseng said:
    Jun 22, 2017 at 5:48 PM

    I’d like to say something simple and sincere and excruciatingly apt, like Phil might, if cornered, but I’d need to start with a nervous giggle and an absurd aside about how sad sadness is and I just don’t have the heart. My condolences, all. We carry with us what Phil taught us as a philosopher and a human, and will continue to do so until we, too, shuffle off. Maybe we’ll infect some other humans (and philosophers) with his kindness along the way. That would be nice.

  • Angella said:
    Jun 22, 2017 at 4:11 PM

    So sad to hear this news may God bless his soul

  • Jim Chu said:
    Jun 22, 2017 at 1:40 PM

    Phil Merklinger was the first professor I had who not only changed what I knew, but changed the very way that I thought. From the essentials of practical logic which are invaluable in these trying times, to the interdisciplinary adventures with Dr. Giesen, “Phil the Thrill” will always be a part of the way I see the world. His patience and knowledge did so much to inspire me to help mentor young people in the Bronx, and encourage to me to find a way to aid those who teach the generations that follow.

    My condolences to family and friends.

  • Dave Lambe said:
    Jun 22, 2017 at 12:19 PM

    My condolences to Margaret and family. I always considered Phil one of my close friends and the most genuine and decent person I have ever met. I am going to miss you so much Phil

  • Bruce Janz said:
    Jun 22, 2017 at 10:57 AM

    For 11 years Phil was my philosophy colleague and friend at Augustana. He was my introduction to the working life of the philosopher, my first after finishing graduate school. And I couldn’t have asked for a better example and mentor of Socrates’ examined life, the one that is really worth living.

    Several people here have mentioned his Nietzsche course. I remember his favorite quotation from Nietzsche: “The maturity of man is to have the seriousness of a child at play.” In that quotation, his love of philosophy, of music, of social justice, and of those around him were of a piece, indistinguishable from each other, because in the end they were all about that engagement in serious living. I remember how each philosopher he read became a little Hegelian, which for Phil meant that there was a struggle between what was and what might be, and a new hope of a more just and humane way of living in the world. I remember how it was, in the end, all about faith in the best sense of the term, not belief in some dogma but seeing the transcendent in the mundane, in every one of us.

    Like everyone else here, and so many others, I will miss him, and remember these things and so much more.

  • Jack Waschenfelder said:
    Jun 22, 2017 at 10:35 AM

    Phil was a friend and colleague, kind and generous, with a probing intellect. I am still in shock over his untimely passing, as we all are. He seemed to have a lightness of touch in the way he lived his life and taught. He never seemed to be rattled over Augustana politics and curricular machinations, which gnawed at many of us the often turbulent times. As Kim Misfeld put it best, “there are no words.” My deepest sympathy goes out to Margaret and the families at large, as they struggle to adjust to his absence. He leaves us with fond memories of excellence in teaching, collegiality, and depth in living.

  • Chad Oberg said:
    Jun 21, 2017 at 9:26 PM

    Reading and resonating so strongly with all of the thoughtful and articulate notes here it is obvious Phil had more than a small part in shaping the people we are today. Deepest condolences from our family. – Chad, Kathy, Maeda, and Soren Oberg

  • Arnold Malone said:
    Jun 21, 2017 at 4:51 PM

    How very sad and what a hole he has left for us to reflectupon. He was so kind, richly thoughtful, and always full of purpose.

    For all who knew and loved him, I am so sorry to hear this news. He was a great man.

  • bruce phillips said:
    Jun 21, 2017 at 8:53 AM

    I met professor Merklinger (Phil) when i was in my mid forties. I was a mature student who had come to Augustana, not looking to find a job, but rather, looking for meaning, knowledge, and understanding. What was it all about, this thing we call “life, “and what better place to understand other than in a philosophy class.
    One of the things we did for an assignment at the beginning of one of his classes was to write our own obituaries. I always felt he did that for me after one of our conversations, but maybe not, maybe it was just Phil’s way of getting us to think on a deeper level. After all, one of the first and absolute truths, other than the fact that we exist, is the inevitably of our deaths. And this may have been the point of Phil’s assignment.
    Over the course of our four year professor/student relationship Phillip taught me a good many things concerning questions of life and meaning, things that i needed to hear as a mature student looking for answers to questions of ultimacy. Phillip was my advisor in organizing the Stephen Lewis event at Augustana; he allowed me the privilege of reading his thoughts on spirituality from a book he was writing (i hope he finished it); he taught me to look at things from different perspectives so i might have the discomfort of thought before forming an opinion, but most fondly and dearly, his mentoring and teaching made me a better person.
    My respect and admiration goes out to a man who influenced my life in a profound way.
    My condolence to the Merklinger family; Phillip will truly be missed not only by his family but by many others whose lives were touched by his teachings.

  • Sarah Hall said:
    Jun 21, 2017 at 8:05 AM

    My deepest sympathies to Phil’s family. Phil has had, and will continue to have a profound impact on my life. From the very first class I took with Phil he instilled his passion for philosophy, music, and the world in me. I do not have the words nor the space to express all the treasured memories I have of Phil. He taught me how to think, question, and communicate with authenticity and respect. Through his own sincerity Phil challenged his students to reach out to others and meet them as valued equals and to listen to their thoughts and opinions with genuine interest. The world has lost a truly good man, but he has left a legacy in his family, students, and colleagues that will continue.

    We will miss you Phil.

  • Mike Ploner said:
    Jun 21, 2017 at 7:37 AM

    I went for a long walk in the rain yesterday evening and thought about Phil. He would have embraced the joy and absurdity of donning a rain suit and heading outdoors into a storm to hear the wind, feel the water and watch the leaves on the trees as they were moved by unseen forces.

  • Michelle said:
    Jun 21, 2017 at 12:42 AM

    Phil (-osophy) with Phil will always be one on my fondest memories of my time at Augustana. It is with deep sadness that we must recognize this loss, my thoughts and deep condolences are with his loved ones at this difficult time. Phil’s legacy will be carried on in the minds of many, and his love and passion for what he did will continue to resonate, through the knowledge he shared, not only as an amazing professor, but as a truly compassionate, kind, witty, and intelligent individual.

    • Michelle said:
      Jun 21, 2017 at 12:59 AM

      I would not have been as inspired, intrigued, and motived as I was to study philosophy and expand my mind if it had not been for Phil, and for that I will always hold deep value and gratitude.

  • Ross Emmett said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 11:56 PM

    When Bruce Janz sent me a message about Phil I immediately thought of his playing with the Subdudes, and also the time I sat in on his course on Nietzsche. Both musically and philosophically, he wove multiple themes together in ways that created a context within which we could see the world at play. My condolences to Margaret, Tom and Emily. As you are seeing, Phil had a great impact on many, including me.

  • Nicholas Beggs said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 10:38 PM

    I am shaken beyond words. I just do not know how to respond to Phillip’s death. My condolences to his family, friends, colleagues, and everybody else this incredible man was important to.
    The past year was my first at Augustana, and in that time I absolutely did not appreciate Phil as much as I know I should have. For some reason, I was intimidated by him; besides, I thought there would be plenty of time. I am ashamed of myself.
    He was somebody I admired from the first day of class. I looked forward to every Tuesday and Thursday with him, and somebody I looked forward to knowing for years to come.
    Phil was an absolutely amazing person and professor. My short time under his mentorship absolutely formed the way I think and approached subjects from natural science, to history, to theology and philosophy of religion. His generosity and general kindness were equally as inspiring as his intelligence and knowledge. He was always glowing with passion.
    Phillip is a person I would never, nor could I let myself, forget.

  • Martin Giesen said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 10:36 PM

    Team-teaching with Phil decades ago brought connections between art and philosophy to life. We remember his gentle wit and supportive spirit. We know that the strength of the Augustana and Camrose communities will provide some comfort to the family at this trying time.
    Martin and Leslie Giesen

  • Patrick MacDonald said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 10:22 PM

    Phil was an amazing professor, he helped me see the world with new eyes. I always felt both challenged and calmed by his courses. My most memorable class moment with Phil was when he had us all draw our version of Socrates.
    Please extend my deepest condolences to his family.

  • Rosemarie said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 10:00 PM

    My condolences to his family. Philosophy was the best because of him. 1 of the prof’s I loved at CLC/CLUC/AUC (the names when I attended. Just going to show how many years later he still had an impact on me)

  • Kari Schenk said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 9:26 PM

    Such sad news! I am consoled a little to think that we were able to express our gratitude for his service as teacher and mentor, and that he would have known of our deep appreciation for him. Under his tutelage, think how many generations of students wondered how to be reflective or to be in good faith, or considered that the owl Minerva spreads its wings over the dusk. Ha! And…we are all still thinking these thoughts.

  • Gord Leonhardt said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 9:04 PM

    Phil was the best.

  • Kari Schenk said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 8:17 PM

    How sad to hear this news! Of course, we had opportunities to show we loved and respected him, and we have the consolation to think that he would have known how grateful we were for his service as a professor and mentor. How many generations of students were inspired to live in good faith, or to be reflective, or to consider that the owl Minerva spreads its wings at dusk. Ha! We are all still thinking these things.

  • Jessica said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 6:51 PM

    He gave me such a love and passion for philosophy. One time on a final exam, he had us write a long answer on a question that said: if a tree falls in a forest and hits a clown, does anyone laugh? I think of him every time I teach my class bits of philosophy and pray they too will meet amazing profs in university that care about them like Phil did. My condolences go out to the family.

  • Kristoffer Per Svennungsen said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 6:19 PM

    Fair thee well my dear, dear friend; my gateway to Nietzsche (I still have the book you gave me). I enjoyed our musical discussions as much as the PHILosophical. I have all the Stones bootlegs you gave me. My wife, Andi Groulx, also sends fond memories and condolences to all family, friends, students – those affected by your beautiful aspect. It is with heavy hearts we bid you adieu, Phil, “May choirs of angels sing thee to thy rest”!

  • Dorothy Woodman said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 6:17 PM

    I have always appreciated Phil’s presence at Augustana and in the community, his intellectual rigour and commitment to service. I can remember our last conversation — an extended discussion on Main Street. He was thoughtful, serious, genuine, and funny. As with every time we ran in to each other, I left a better person because of it. He will always be for me an embodiment of the best that is Augustana. May his memory be as a blessing.

  • Harry and Pat Prest said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 4:40 PM

    We were so sad to hear of Phil’s sudden death. He was not only a remarkable colleague but also a great friend. He enriched our lives so much with his sense of humour, his generosity and his many talents. Faculty Follies won’t be the same without him! Phil leaves us all with so many happy memories. Our condolences to Margaret, Emily, and Thomas.

  • Alicia Baier Wideman said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 3:59 PM

    Phil opened a world to me I previously hadn’t known existed. He validated my experiences and challenged me to think in ways I never thought possible. Phil nurtured my philosophical, pedagogical, political, social and personal growth and development at Augustana and beyond. He pushed and challenged my ontological and epistemological limits.

    Since our time at Augustana, he remained a source of dialectic inquiry and provided solace from the harsh, mind-numbing assault of the world. I will never forget the evenings at the Alice we shared with him – they were a philosophical vacation that renewed my mind. I will deeply miss those nights. The Alice will never be the same.

    My experience of this world feels less full without him in it.

  • Candice said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 3:51 PM

    And nothing’s lost
    At such a cost.
    Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, who could hang a name on you?
    When you change with ev’ry new day?
    Still I’m gonna miss you.
    RIP Phil.

  • Jeremy Wideman said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 3:47 PM

    There are so many damned things that I could say about Phil. He has influenced every part of my life. How I teach, think, love, science, write, reflect, etc etc etc.
    How he did this is a mystery to me. He never appeared to seek influence on anyone, never seemed to pressure his views on others. And yet, he influenced so many.
    I keep thinking about what Phil might want. But I keep hearing Phil’s voice tell me “who cares? I’m dead! (insert hilarious sniggering here)”
    I can’t help but think that we had a conversation about how we would each want to be remembered or celebrated.
    I can’t help but think he suggested that people do something fun and silly.
    I would tell him that we’re listening to the Stones right now. He would ask what song. We might argue about if the Bowie cover was better than the original.
    It’s not the same, but I’m sure I will keep inventing the other half of the dialogue.
    Hopefully I get most of the parts right.

  • Dyanna Couture (Dyanna Noble) said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 3:07 PM

    So sad to hear of this news. Phil Merklinger was one of my favourite people at Augustana- teaching us how philosophical and poetic the Rolling Stones were and getting us all in touch with our inner Socrates. Well done, good and faithful servant. Condolences to his family.

  • Pamela Woodman said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 2:47 PM

    Phil was a very kind man who I got to know both as a professor and colleague. He was a stable and positive influence in a changing environment. He will be sorely missed by all whom had the opportunity to know him. My condolences to his family.

  • Janine Lovmo said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 1:52 PM

    Living here in Norway, the passing of my philosophy professor sends me into deep thought… I had recently begun re-reading the curriculum he introduced me to… I`m sorry for his family`s loss, and very grateful for his contribution to my contemplative life. May warm thoughts and enjoyable memories bring his family some solace in their time of loss.

  • Sonja Zacharias said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 1:42 PM

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Merklinger family and the Augustana community. He was such a wonderful professor who impacted me deeply. He helped me see the experience of life in a different way, I will always be grateful for his contribution. He will be greatly missed by many.

  • Carrol Burkard said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 1:19 PM

    So sorry to hear of Phil’s passing. I remember very fondly his performances at the Faculty Follies. Margaret, please accept my sympathy and condolences to you and your family.

  • Lila Bowtell said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 1:13 PM

    Such sad news. I always considered Phil a stand-up guy. Sending my sincere sympathy to the family.

  • Craig Neu said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 12:42 PM

    Outstanding professor and an absolutely wonderful human being. He has surely inspired countless students to foster their curiosity, think deeper, and be wiser. His memory lives on. My deepest condolences to Phil’s family.

  • Alix Jorgensen said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 12:37 PM

    This is heartbreaking news to hear. Phil was so influential, respectable and kind. He was filled with wisdom, and when you spoke to him it always felt like he was listening. I always respected his open view of the world. One of the best profs ever. He will be dearly missed.

  • Krista Larocque said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 12:26 PM

    I’m so sad to hear of Phil’s passing. He will truly be missed. My condolences to his family & friends.

  • Carolyn Hartman said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 12:08 PM

    So sorry to hear this. I knew Phil as a parent of his two children whom I taught at Sparling many years ago. Thoughts and prayers for the family.

  • Lori Lindholm said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 12:00 PM

    Dear Margaret, Tom and Emily,

    Our deepest condolences to you all. We have so many memories of Phil with our girls growing up together. Know that we are thinking of you and sending you love and hugs.

    Lori, Kevin and Ashli

  • Harry Gaede said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 11:43 AM

    I’m so sorry to hear of Phillip’s passing. Our condolences go out to Margaret and family
    Harry and Margery

  • Cindy Eisman said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 11:29 AM

    My deepest sympathies to Phil’s family. His gentleness and compassion has had an enduring effect on me. I am very sad to hear of his passing

  • Nicole said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 11:07 AM

    He was truly a great professor, and will be missed by many. Condolences to his family and friends.

  • Catherine Sims-Cogle said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 9:32 AM

    I am shocked and saddened to read of Phil’s passing. I remember fondly the philosophy classes I attended at Augustana with Phil as the professor. Please extend my condolences to Phil’s family.
    Catherine Sims

  • Mike Klug said:
    Jun 20, 2017 at 9:29 AM

    my deepest condolences to the family at this college this time of sorrow. I will always remember everytime i saw him he always said hello with s smile. May he rest in peace